Sandy Ewen (standing, far left) will lead Red Currant in a repetition- and variation-based program in front of The Fabiola Project exhibition at the Byzantine Fresco Chapel.
Sandy Ewen (standing, far left) will lead Red Currant in a repetition- and variation-based program in front of The Fabiola Project exhibition at the Byzantine Fresco Chapel.
Courtesy of Red Currant

Music to Look at 514 of the Same-ish Artwork By

In a super rare performance inside one of Houston’s coolest spaces that’s currently hosting a crazy one-of-a-kind exhibition, an all-female ensemble will attempt to replicate the show’s visuals via improvised sounds.

Francis Alys: The Fabiola Project, on display for the next year, is a collection of more than 500 copies of the Saint Fabiola portrait. (The original has been lost for a very long time.) The small paintings, woodcarvings, needlepoints and mosaics stretch from floor to very tall ceiling inside the Byzantine Fresco Chapel.

Red Currant, a Houston-based experimental music group, will present a suite of vocal and movement-based pieces inspired by the show that opened last May.

“The major themes in the pieces we’ve written are repetition and copying. The ensemble itself somewhat replicates the inclusive nature of the collection of paintings,” says Sandy Ewen, who will lead the ensemble, which will include at least 12 women and a handful of small wind and percussion instruments.

“The ensemble is open to any woman who wants to participate, regardless of experience or skill level. I have encouraged all of our members to write pieces. This is in the spirit of Alys’s piece; the beauty is in the collective vision of the artists and the sincerity of their creations,” adds Ewen, who was named one of Houston Press’s 100 Creatives in 2012.

Installation view of the 2009 solo exhibition Francis Alÿs: Fabiola at the National Portrait Gallery, London.
Installation view of the 2009 solo exhibition Francis Alÿs: Fabiola at the National Portrait Gallery, London.
National Portrait Gallery, London. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

Red Currant is the latest iteration of Lady Band, an outlet for Houston-area women that Ewen created in 2009. The one-off names of the ensembles – such as Fig Pudding, Pawpaw Pomelo, Durian Durian (noticing the fruit theme yet?), Pina Colada and Gooseberry Marmalade – have performed at The Menil Collection and 14 Pews, on the roof of the Mekong Plaza parking garage and during the New Media Art and Sound Summit (NMASS) festival in Austin. Lady Band’s last show, under the name of Cucumber Melon, performed a piece for amplified bathtub during DiverseWorks’ 12 Minutes Max! program on November 5.

“I was in a bunch of bands with a bunch of dudes. I didn't mind that, but I felt that it would be nice to have more female friends and more women playing music. So I made a band with a bunch of women,” says Ewen. “It worked well — there are a few women who have gone on to other bands who probably wouldn't be playing music otherwise, and it's been a good way to socialize.

“I'm equally proud of our music. The skewed demographics of the music scene suggests a lot of untapped female talent. This project makes use of that.”

Red Currant is scheduled to perform at 7 p.m. Friday, February 17, at the Byzantine Fresco Chapel, 4011 Yupon. Admission is free. For more information, call 713-525-9400 or go to menil.org.

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